How to Sight in a Thermal Scope? A Step-by-Step Guide!

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Although optics are helpful, if you don’t know how to use them, those optics will become a piece of trash for you. The same is the case with thermal scope as many people don’t know how to sight in a thermal scope and consider these scopes useless. 

That being said, if you don’t know how to use it, you’re going to blame the performance of optics. Guess what, almost all the newbies who use the thermal scope for the first time seem to be confused as they fail to get a clear view of the target. If you’re one of them, don’t panic, as I have got your back. 

In this guide, I will down into the explanation and easy steps that will you see the target clearly and you will be able to shoot with perfect accuracy. If you’ve been using a normal scope and making a shift toward the thermal one, this guide is going to make your shift easier and smoother. Let’s go into the details.

Related Article: How to Disassemble a Rifle Scope?

What are Thermal Scopes?

Just like my previous guide, I will start explaining the topic from the very basics. My aim will be to write as simple as possible. So, if a newbie reads, he will get a complete understanding of thermal scopes. 

So, what are thermal scopes? These are advanced optical devices that use thermal imaging technology to detect and display heat signatures from objects, animals, and people. They are commonly used in hunting, surveillance, law enforcement, and military operations.

In the above-given definition, I used the word thermal imaging technology, and it might confuse you. Let me explain and make it easier for you to understand.  This technology is based on the principle that all objects emit heat energy in the form of infrared radiation. 

So, the thermal scopes use specialized sensors to detect this radiation emitted by the object and convert it into an image that can be viewed by the user. So, when you use these scopes, then the sensors convert the heat into visuals and help you see the target. 

The sensors are typically made of materials such as indium antimonide, mercury cadmium telluride, or vanadium oxide, which are sensitive to infrared radiation. The good thing is that these scopes allow users to see in complete darkness, through smoke and fog, and in other low-visibility conditions.

So, these thermal scopes are different from the normal scopes that have nothing to do with the heat emitted by the body. So, the usage of thermal scopes is a bit tricky especially if you’ve been using the normal type of scopes. But don’t worry, I will guide you on how you can sight in a thermal scope comfortably.

Also Read: How to Put a Scope on a Rossi RS22?

How to Sight in a Thermal Scope?

If you’re new to thermal optics, chances are high that you won’t be able to sight in the thermal scope. This is because seeing through the thermal scope and normal scope requires different skills. In the section below, I will go into the explanation and help you understand how you can sight in a thermal scope. Let’s get into the details.

1- Secure & Stabilize Your Rifle

First and the most important thing that you should keep in mind is to stabilize the riffle. Most of the time, shooters fail to hold the rifle firmly and miss the target while using the thermal scope.

Keep in mind that sighting in your thermal scope highly depends on your rifle’s stability. Secured and stabilized weapons make it easier to measure the distance between the bullet drop and the bull’s eye. 

You should always make sure that your initial position and the rifle should be stable. The initial position needs to be as steady as possible for you to maximize your zero. If you fail to keep the rifle stable, 60% chances are there that you will miss the shot.

2- Use The Right Targets

Thermal scopes are not ideal when you have observable light. To shoot using a thermal scope, you need a target that emits heat. If you choose a target that doesn’t emit any sort of heat, then rest assured that you won’t be able to get a clear view of the target.

Many people use paper as the target. No doubt, paper as a target works well when you’re using a normal scope. But when you have thermal scope in hand, then don’t use paper as a target because it does not emit heat. 

Special Note: I highly recommend you use an object as a target that emits heat.

3- Mounting the Scope

Mounting the thermal scope correctly is crucial for accurate shots and clear viewing of the target from a distance. The scope should be mounted in a way that it aligns perfectly with the rifle’s barrel. This alignment is critical because it ensures that the bullet hits the target where the crosshairs indicate.

4-  Set Up Your Target

Before taking any shots, set up your target. The target should be at a reasonable distance, depending on the type of rifle and ammunition you are using. It is essential to ensure that the target is stable and that it won’t move during the sighting process.

5- Zeroing the Scope

Now, this is another important point that you should never overlook. Don’t you know what is zeroing the scope? It is actually the process of aligning the crosshairs with the point of impact. This is very helpful in hitting the right target.

But the question is how you can zero the scope. To do this, take a few shots at the target and adjust the scope until the crosshairs are aligned with the point of impact. Keep shooting until you don’t find the perfect target. That will be zero level.

When you don’t zero the scope, you don’t get the perfect sight through the thermal scopes. Even if you see through the scope, you won’t be able to hit the right target accurately. When you will shoot, you’ll always miss the target. So, zeroing the scope is important. If you don’t know how to zero a thermal cope, here is a video that will explain.

6- Take Your Shots

Once you’ve set up your target and are done with zeroing the scope,  go through a practice round to ensure that everything is working correctly.  Sight in a thermal scope is to head back to the shooting block and take your shots. 

How many shots are enough for practice? The minimum number of shots that you need to take is three, but I recommend you to have at least 5 shots as it will give you more confidence about your thermal scope. While taking shots, make sure that the crosshairs are aligned with the point of impact.

Once you’ve gone through a practice round, repeat the process until you achieve the desired accuracy. Adjust the optic as necessary until you’re satisfied with the results. Keep in mind the thermal scope will initially feel a bit weird if you have been using a normal scope, however, you will adjust the thermal scope with time.

How to Sight in a Thermal Scope During the Day?

Thermal scopes are usually used in lowlight conditions or at night when the light in the surrounding is very low. But you can use them in daylight conditions and have perfect sight and shoot with accuracy. In the section below, I am going to mention how you can sight in a thermal cope during the day.

  1. First of all, you’ll have to find the target. Fit your thermal scope on the riffle and start seeing. Keep in mind that the object must be big enough and it should be able to emit heat as the thermal scope only help you see the object that emits heat. For example, if you are using the paper as a target, you won’t be able to see its visuals through the thermal scope.
  2. The next step is to adjust the focus of the thermal scope. This is important to ensure that you can see the target clearly. Adjust the focus until you can see the target clearly. Keep in mind to zero the scope so that you see the crosshair at the right place and when you shoot, it must hit right at the target.
  3. If you don’t have a target that emits heat, you can use reflective stripes to make targets by yourself. Place the reflective stripes on a surface and aim at them. The thermal scope will pick up the heat from the reflective stripes, making it easier to sight in the scope. Keep in mind that it is not a perfect solution for daylight shooting, however, it can still give you a good estimate of the target’s location.

If you have a normal scope, I recommend you use it in the daylight instead of using the thermal scope. However, in night conditions, the thermal scope will work perfectly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of target should be used for sighting in a thermal scope?

The best target for sighting in a thermal scope is one that has a high contrast between the target and the background. The reason it that it will help the shooter to easily distinguish the target from the background and make accurate shots. 

Can tin foil be used as a target for sighting in a thermal scope?

Yes, tin foil can be used as a target for sighting in a thermal scope.

Is it possible to sight in a thermal scope during the day?

Yes, it is possible to sight in a thermal scope during the day. However, it is important to note that thermal scopes work best in low-light conditions, such as at dawn or dusk. 

Are there any DIY thermal targets that are effective for sighting in a thermal scope?

Yes, there are many DIY thermal targets that can be effective for sighting in a thermal scope. One popular option is to use a cardboard box filled with hot water as a target. 

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